At a recent ceremony in the former Methodist Church in Allihies, County Cork – the most westerly village in the Dioceses of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, and the Irish village situated at the greatest distance from Dublin, our capital city (394 km away) – the Church of Ireland community in general, and one family in particular, were honoured. The Hodges family have a 200 year connection with Allihies. The former church is now a Copper Mine Museum.
At a recent ceremony Tommy Hodges and Canon Paul Willoughby unveiled a plaque at the Copper Mine Museum in Allihies. The plaque reads;
Allihies Parish Co-Operative Society gratefully acknowledges the generosity given by the Church of Ireland and Tommy and Willie Hodges in donating this site and helping to make this museum possible.
Canon Paul Willoughby said:
This is a great occasion for Tommy and his family. Sadly, his brother Willie died last year and was not here to celebrate with us. The Hodges family have been living here in Allihies for over two hundred years and each generation has played a very significant part in the life of the community. Here, on the edge of the Atlantic, life is all about the local community working together and goes far beyond religious denomination. It is true ecumenism in action. Tommy is held in the highest regard by everyone here and the parishioners and I are thrilled that he should be honoured in this way. There is nobody more deserving.
In March 1993 a group of locals met in Allihies to set up the Parish Cooperative. One of the significant projects they launched was the transformation of the ruins of the old Methodist Church into the mining museum that it is today – a place which would ‘tell the story’ of Allihies, the people of that village, the copper mine and the local links with Butte, Montana. Many of the miners emigrated to Montana to find work when the mine closed in the 1880s. Given the state of repair of the church this was a huge undertaking by such a small community. Through local fundraising initiatives and a grant from the ‘Millennium Fund’ the dream became a reality and it was opened in 2007 by the President of Ireland. That ceremony also included a live link-up to the Civic Centre in Butte Montana. Those gathered there watched the ceremony in Allihies and also listened to a wonderful documentary about the links between Montana and Beara made by the renowned Joe Kearney of RTE.
The Methodist Church in Allihies was built in 1845 to provide a place of worship for the miners, many of whom came from Cornwall. At one stage over 1,500 people worked there. It closed in the late 1800s when the mine fell into ruin. The Parish Co-Operative received a wonderful start to the project when Tommy and Willie Hodges gave them a gift of the ruined church and the surrounding land which they then owned. They also received great encouragement and assistance from Maud Levis, a lay reader in charge of the parish at that time, as well as the then Diocesan Secretary, Wilfred Baker, and the local Church of Ireland community.